Government publishes guidance on making DCO changes

The government has published a guidance document on making changes to development consent orders (DCOs), including details on what constitutes a 'material change' to such applications.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure: guidance on changes to DCOs published
Nationally Significant Infrastructure: guidance on changes to DCOs published

The Department for Energy and Climate Change published the guidance document on procedures for altering DCOs yesterday.

The move follows an announcement last year that the government was seeking to simplify the process for changing DCOs, which are awarded to nationally significant infrastructure projects that use a fast-track regime introduced by the Planning Act 2008.

The guidance sets out how material and non-material changes can be made to such consents – and also explains the difference between the two.

It says that a change should be treated as material if it would require an updated environmental statement, a habitats regulations assessment or a new licence to cover European Protected Species.

The guidance adds that any change authorising compulsory acquisition of land would be material, as would any change which would cause significantly more impact from a development proposal on local people.

But it adds: "Given the range of infrastructure projects that are consented through the 2008 Act, and the variety of changes that could possibly be proposed for a single project, this guidance cannot, and does not attempt to, prescribe whether any particular types of change would be material or non-material. Such decisions will inevitably depend on the circumstances of the specific case."

Applications for material changes to a DCO should go through a five-step process, the guidance also says.

This includes consultation; publication of proposed alteration; consideration of responses then application to secretary of state; consideration by secretary of state; examination process lasting no more than eight months – or ministerial decision within two months.

Planning Act 2008: Guidance on Changes to Development Consent Orders can be read here. 

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